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Present - Barbaro (Ma Non Troppo) CD (album) cover





4.24 | 138 ratings

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5 stars Present is one of those bands that just keeps getting better with each release. They've released some amazing stuff since their comeback with Certitudes (if we don't count the C. O. D. Performance) and each release bested its predecessor. The last studio album came in 2001, so expectations were naturally very high for this one. Present didn't let us down, producing another masterpiece, which reminds us of their past glories, yet also focuses on the future with an even more intense, complex and better-sounding release.

Present's sound is hard to define. I suppose you could say their music is built around very dissonant motives and melodies (if you can call them that), which are intricately composed and arranged into what is sometimes considered as some of the most challenging music to have ever been recorded. Usually, I'm not a big fan of technical music just for the sake of it, but Present are able to put all their darkest fears and deepest emotions into their music to create otherworldly music, which is highly complex, but very emotional and involving as well.

Vertiges is a track co-written by father and son Trigaux. It's perhaps Present's most challenging work to date. The tempo is unrelenting and some of the parts are incredibly complex. I think this is where Present are best ? doing amazingly difficult segments that still contain so much anguish and other primal emotions. Occasionally (especially somewhere around the half of the composition), Vertiges reminds me of the Univers Zero piece Presage, which is peculiar since Trigaux was no longer a member on Uzed, but I suppose he kept track of the goings-on in Univers Zero, seeing as Daniel Denis was also a member of Present. Nevertheless, Vertiges is a tremendous achievement, showing off some of Present's trademark aspects, but the piece also seems to have a more modern feel to it. There is an amazing intensity and rawness throughout it that keeps you on your toes all the way through.

A Last Drop is a piece composed by Pierre Chevalier. It's his second contribution to the Present catalogue ? the first being Strychnine for Christmas from the High Infidelity album. Pierre's style is quite different to Roger's. His piece is not that hectic and wild, there are a few more peaceful moments to rest your ears. Some segments on the Mellotron remind me of early Crimson, while some guitar riffs remind me of Red. It is a nice contrast to the damage on the senses (positive, of course) that Vertiges inflicts on you.

The last title is familiar to most fans of the rock in opposition movement. Jack the Ripper (co-written by Daniel Denis and Roger Trigaux) was originally released on Univers Zero's Heresie and is one of the most recognisable Univers Zero works. Present still frequently play it at their shows. The version we hear here is the one from their live shows. It's as if an extra surge of adrenaline has been put into the piece and Jack has become even more brutal and manic. Besides the more aggressive nature of the composition, it stays fairly true to the original. There are some added Mellotron and synthesiser parts, which add to the suspense, some of the instruments are different and the introduction is played on the piano instead of the harmonium, but in terms of composition, this is pretty much the same version as on Heresie. I would have preferred to hear a new piece instead of this, seeing as this new version is also on the DVD, but beggars can't be choosers and I'm sure this will get a fair bit of mileage from my CD player as well.

The second part of the album is the DVD. You get almost three hours of Present performances, which is a lot by anyone's standards. We basically hear all the favourite Present pieces and all of Present's most memorable performances in the last few years. First, we get a look at the entire performances at the first Rock in Opposition festival held in 2009. These bring back some fond memories and show the band in all its glory performing some of their best pieces. The two pianos set is particularly interesting because the arrangements are slightly different than on the studio versions.

After that, we can see the band performing at the Gouveia 2006 festival, where they already presented the two new pieces we can hear on the studio CD. A Last Drop is more or less the same as on the CD, while only half of Vertiges is played (from the section that sounds a bit like Univers Zero's Presage).

A really excellent addition to the DVD is the archival footage. I enjoyed the two Trigaux men during the C.O.D. performance, where they played Alone, Le Poison (first part) and Ersatz on only two guitars, with a young Reginald Trigaux taking on lead guitar duties. The Present 94 show played at the Carmaux festival is also nice. Again, we see a line-up with no keyboards, but two guitars, bass and drums (Roger and Reginald Trigaux, Christian Genet and Daniel Denis). The band performed a very rocked-out version of Le Poison (Part 2). The next footage is Delusions performed at Orion. Dave Kerman and Pierre Chevalier had already joined the band at this point and the playing seems that much tighter thanks greatly to them as well. Reginald shows what a great improviser he is when he goes into a Jimmy Hendrix-like solo. The Wurzburg show also brings us something good ? a piece I hadn't heard before called Contre (also included on the Live album), which should have been recorded in the studio or even expanded by Trigaux because it sounds fantastic as it is, but with Trigaux's typical additions, it might sound even better (if that's possible). It actually reminds me of Art Zoyd slightly.

The sound of the performances seems slightly altered. The pieces sound more similar to the studio versions than when I heard them live at the RIO festival. I can't speak or the other shows, but I'm guessing it's the same. It sounds much better on the DVD than live, but that was to be expected, except for the archival releases, which sound exactly as archival releases should ? not great, but not bad.

The sound quality on both discs is great, as I've already said (apart from the archival segments), also due to the good work of Udi Koomran, but the picture quality isn't the best. The last CD/DVD combination I got before this was IQ's latest album and they did a much better job of the picture, while Present's DVD picture doesn't always seem to be in focus. This is a very minor annoyance to such nitpickers as myself, as the performances can still be seen very clearly and enjoyed thoroughly.

The performances on both discs clearly show that we're hearing some of the best and most dedicated musicians at work. Roger Trigaux's vision is clear and for that vision he needs the best in the business and ever since No. 6, he has had the best group of people to work with. The sound is so full that you feel like every millimetre of space has been used up. No note seems obsolete, everything is exactly where it's supposed to be. This kind of brilliance requires a great deal of dedication and belief ? and this is what Roger Trigaux certainly gets from this great group of musicians.

Barbaro (ma non troppo) is a fantastic piece of work. The only real criticism I have is that it gives us too little new music ? only 28 minutes. Sure, there's a new version of Jack the Ripper, but I'd rather listen to an entirely new piece than to a composition written 30 years ago. Other than that little complaint, this CD/DVD is a real treat. The DVD gave me a chance to remember the wonderful moments o the first RIO festival and see some performances I unfortunately missed (Gouveia 2006). There is also some very memorable archival footage, which adds a nice touch to the album.

My final assessment is that Barbaro serves us some of the best music Present have ever produced. For me, Vertiges is the best Present composition I have ever heard, or at least it seems like that at the moment, and one of the finest pieces of music ever written by anyone. A Last Drop isn't far behind, while Jack the Ripper offers a nice new insight into Present's new sound. This is a must-get album for any fan of Present (for the CD and DVD) and experimental music (particularly for the CD). The future looks bright for Present!

maribor | 5/5 |


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